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Minnesota court finds cracks in windshield-related DWI defense

Minnesota court finds cracks in windshield-related DWI defense

It all basically started with a windshield. A crack in a Burnsville woman’s windshield prompted what has become a debated DWI and assault case. It’s gone through the district court and recently was heard and ruled upon by the Court of Appeals of Minnesota.

In 2009, the 34-year-old defendant was pulled over by an officer because he reportedly noticed that there was a significant crack on the driver’s windshield. After he pulled her over, an investigation apparently provided enough evidence to move forward with a DWI charge and more.

The defendant claims that she should not have been charged with or convicted of the charges because the officer didn’t have a reasonable reason to stop her. She says that the cracked windshield wasn’t enough to warrant being pulled over and investigated.

A district court disagreed with that theory. In March 2010, the defendant was found guilty of driving while impaired, including driving with a cancelled license and assault. The defendant and her legal team challenged the ruling, taking the case to appeals court.

The court recently affirmed the district court’s guilty verdicts. The majority agrees that the cracked windshield was a reasonable cause for the defendant to be pulled over. Minnesota law says it’s illegal to drive with a crack in one’s windshield that obstructs his or her view, giving the officer in this case a reason to stop the car and investigate.

But the defendant and the dissenting judge in the case emphasize that the officer couldn’t judge whether the crack was, in fact, obstructing the driver’s view of the road. Without that being true, therefore, he wrongfully pulled her over. Related to that doubt, the officer never even cited the defendant for the cracked windshield.

Unless the defendant takes this DWI case even higher up, however, the guilty verdicts against her still stand.

Though this case hasn’t ended favorably for the defendant thus far, it is still a good example of what can be an effective drunk driving defense. According to law, “An officer may, consistent with the Fourth Amendment, conduct a brief, investigatory stop when the officer has reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.”


Leagle: “State v. Oliveros,” Filed 16 May 2011

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